John Michael

Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise LV: Crack Open a Little Bit

(Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash)

John Michael continues his series Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise, reflecting on life and people encountered, thinking about ways to overcome feelings of shame and inhibition.


I went rummaging through my storage unit this afternoon looking for a crockpot in particular but also other things to take home. No crockpot, but I did run across what I like to call Songs and Poems, Volume One—90 or so separate writings from the past several years.

I realize I look at illnesses differently than most folks. I have had sinus problems most of my life that manifest as allergies, infections, and postnasal drip. I was out hiking around Boville last week. On the trail at one point, out there in the clean air, I felt this gray sort of heavy sludge feeling all around my throat and neck as I was navigating around some pine boughs.

I’ve become good at discerning the truth over the years and saying what I believe if I think it will be helpful for someone to hear or set a boundary. So, I was a little surprised about how heavy my throat felt.

The throat chakra is also about self-expression. Many of you know the feelings of shame and inhibition caused by mean, spiteful, jealous remarks that both adults and kids say that we end up believing, even though they aren’t true.

When we are young and trying out something new that we find interesting or are excited about but have not developed confidence in, those shaming, cutting remarks can have us turning our backs on things we enjoy for the rest of our lives.


You may have some things you might enjoy but have been shamed out of trying. I say, get after it again.


There is another aspect of myself that is a little afraid to excel at things I enjoy, because my success caused a strain in some of my childhood friendships with guys and girls I was either in class with or doing sports with.

When I came off the streets and having worked through a certain amount of shame, I didn’t take a vow or anything, but I started doing things that I enjoyed like singing, writing songs and poems, and painting, regardless of whether they were “good” or not. I post a lot of these things and still, on occasion, will take them down when shame arises and then repost them later when I am again at peace with myself.

I feel I am just beginning as a painter, and it is something that brings me peace and that I will be doing as long as I am able. My mom and her brother are both art lovers. I came across a framed piece of my own that I had given my uncle a while back and thought, Holy shit, is this mine? I really like it.

The same thing just happened with the songbook. I read a couple from a year or so ago and thought, These contain a certain sweetness that touches my heart a little.

I went outside to balance my coffee with a cigarette and was sitting there contemplating things and felt my throat area, or chakra, if you will, crack open a little bit. What does that mean? Well, I imagine a reduced fear of self-expression and reduced sinus infections. I say “amen” to both.

You may have some things you might enjoy but have been shamed out of trying. I say, get after it again. Baby steps, of course, and do it for your own pleasure, not to impress someone.


John Michael

Hello, good people. I am rarely sure how to describe myself. If I say I am a Christian, many things may arise in your mind that ain't necessarily so. I was homeless for seven years and learned more about myself in that stretch of time than in any other segment of my life. I read the Bible a lot out there and came across a passage in Proverbs that has shaped my approach to life: "A man's pursuit is his kindness." I am well educated with a Master of Social Work degree and have worked a wide variety of jobs in my 52 years. None have lasted too long however. When I was homeless, the beauty of Texas wildflowers made me decide to want to live again. Along with kindness, beauty, play, and self-expression are life-guiding ideas. My shadow contains things like feeling sorry for myself, a truckload of defiance, a desperate need to please women, and no small amount of cruelty. A quote from Luke also has had a lasting effect on me: "For God is kind to the ungrateful and the evil." When I read that I thought, "Hell, I have got a fighting chance." I am here to tell you, you have a fighting chance as well. Besides Christianity, practicing Buddhist and Shamanic techniques inform my relationship to God and the world.

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